What's a person to do when the seasonal party invites pile up and you need easy-do hostess gifts?
Think hyacinths — those sweet-smelling, nostalgic bulbs that say you care without a lot of fuss and muss.
A quick stop at the grocery store or florist yields you long-lasting potted hyacinths in shades of blue, purple, white and pink with a cluster of fragrant florets covering a sturdy stalk, according to the gardening experts at www.iBulb.org, a nonprofit educational site that focuses on the beauty and use of flowering bulbs.
That hyacinth pot may be a foil-covered or plastic version, but you can dress it up and make it look pricey by slipping the plastic pot into a decorative container, bowl or basket. Or, go the natural-looking route and wrap it in fabric such as burlap and tie it with raffia.
The bulbs with roots and soil intact can also be carefully lifted from the plastic pot and replanted in a larger container — think three to five grouped together — where they will continue to thrive.
When shopping for hyacinths, purchase the plants with buds closed. They bloom from bottom to top, so print a helpful card that suggests the recipient give the hyacinth proper light and temperature care.
If you received a hyacinth as a gift this year, here's how to take care of it: The plant should be kept in an area with partial sunlight or partial shade and temperatures of about 60 degrees. Heat speeds up the natural flowering process, and cooler temperatures help blooms last longer. Water the plants as needed to keep the soil moist, but avoid over-watering because this leads to rotten bulbs. No fertilizer is necessary because the nutrients needed for the plant to grow are stored in the bulb.